Paris has always been for the traditional, Milan for the extravagant and London for the forward-thinking. It’s what we do best: teddy boys, new romantics, punks and Goths, Brit style has always been ahead of the game when it comes to innovation.
This is what makes London Collections Men so exciting. The shows are unpredictable, the offering broad and the talent fresh. It explains why the event has grown, not only out from under the shadow of womenswear, but from a single 24hr slot to a four day roster of back-to-back runway shows, presentations and live streams.
So, before the spring/summer 2017 round kicks off tomorrow, here are a few tips covering who’s new, who’s interesting and who’s underrated.
Despite cutting his teeth under Alexander McQueen, Jeremy Scott and Kanye West, Alex Mullins is relatively new on the scene under his own name. Nonetheless, the Royal College of Art graduate, who established his own label in 2013, has shown serious fashion credentials.
Last season, Mullins made a splash (quite literally), showing in a gallery and splattering models with shimmering paint; a look that carried through to a collection inspired by artwork and creativity.
His clothes might be colourful but – in news that might shock you – they’re not unwearable. Screen-printed lab coats were a bold statement for sure, but frayed denim jumpers and indigo denim overcoats expertly mixed the tailoring he picked up at McQueen with youthful sensibilities.
One To Watch: If you enjoy the occasional Tate exhibition but aren’t brave enough to go full Pollock on your jeans just yet.
Lou Dalton may not be a new designer (she founded her label in 2008) but her clothes are criminally underrated. Before holding the coveted opening slot of LCM for several seasons, she honed her craft at the likes of Iceberg and Stone Island. As a result, Dalton is a dab hand at balancing wearability and innovation.
Last season was a brilliant example of this. Formal trousers were loosened with elasticated waistbands; the check shirt became a cropped jacket’ waffle knit jumpers were teamed with soft, spongey outerwear’ and sweatshirts appeared in a fuzzy new form.
There were no weird shapes (no man skirts here), just small twists on wardrobe staples, which made for a collection that proved Dalton’s commercial edge. No wonder Jaeger tapped her up for a capsule collection.
One To Watch: To find out what you’ve been missing out on.
Kiko Kostadinov made waves at the Central Saint Martins MA fashion show earlier this year by using models kitted out in black morphsuits. The Bulgarian-born talent is certainly not like other graduates, he already has two sell-out collaborations in partnership with Stussy under his belt and designs stocked in the New York and Ginza branches of Dover Street Market.
For spring/summer 2017, Kostadinov is breaking out to show independently for the first time and we’re sure his signature look of contemporary workwear will make an appearance (with or without the morphsuits). Shredding and layering are familiar techniques here, so expect more of the same with a utilitarian undercurrent at his upcoming show.
One To Watch: To get an early look at a future big hitter.
Bobby Abley is the king of the statement sweatshirt. His designs are rooted in casualwear and come packing a sense of humour (something that has long given menswear the upper hand over womenswear).
Last season, Abley took his vision to Rio with a kaleidoscopic collection that featured neoprene jumpers emblazoned with cartoon birds and frayed jeans. While his designs can be pretty outrageous (autumn/winter 2016 featured a giant feather backpack), there’s also plenty to buy into, like his joggers, making his one of the most interesting runway spectacles.
One To Watch: For fun and serious menswear with the odd cultural reference thrown in.
Feng Cheng Wang
It’s widely accepted that without MAN, there would be no London Collections Men. The Topman-sponsored support scheme from Fashion East led the menswear breakaway from women’s fashion week and has championed the likes of J.W. Anderson, Christopher Shannon, Liam Hodges and Craig Green in the past.
This season, two new designers – Swedish-born Per Götesson and Chinese-born Feng Cheng Wang – have been announced to join the returning Charles Jeffrey. It’s hard to choose between the two, but Wang’s oversized looks and statement details just about clinch it.
This will no doubt be a show for those bored of seeing commercial giants of the world trot out their standard brand of tailoring and classic silhouettes.
One To Watch: If you need reminding that not all menswear has to be traditional.